Tuesday, November 12, 2013

from the wonderful folks who brought you Parent Revolution & the Parent Trigger: CELEBRATORY SELF CONGRATULATION!

Why I Wrote the Nation’s First Parent-Trigger Law

Education Week

CommentaryBy Gloria Romero in EdWeek | http://bit.ly/1gGqjoJ

November 5, 2013  ::  I wrote the nation's first parent-trigger law. I acted because I understood that education is the civil rights issue of our time and the key to the American dream.

I'm the daughter of a mother who attained only a 6th grade education, but who understood that education is what lifts us out of poverty.

As a Democratic senator representing the diverse, heavily Latino East Los Angeles-eastern Los Angeles County community and the chair of both the state Senate's education and prison oversight committees, I understood that if we do not educate, we will incarcerate. California locks away a disproportionate number of Latino and African-American youths, and, nationwide, nearly 70 percent of inmates are high school dropouts.

For years, California's education department routinely released data on schools with disturbingly high—indeed, morally shameful—percentages of children who fail to score at even basic levels of academic proficiency. These are schools identified as chronically underperforming and in need of intervention, but all too often they were simply ignored, forgotten on bureaucratic lists. Nothing was ever done for them. Ironically, many of these schools were named for civil rights heroes, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez. Nonetheless, they were left to languish year after year, most parents unaware of their status. In the 15 years since I was first elected to the legislature, some of those same schools have appeared on the lists again and again.

I am a product of the civil rights movement. I graduated from a high school where I was "counseled" that college was beyond my reach—after all, I lived in one of those zip codes, at the end of a dead-end road in a mostly rural county. But with a mother who had faith and inspiration drawn from the late John F. Kennedy, a farmworkers' movement, and an intense love of learning, I rose to become the Senate majority leader of the state of California.

"I'm the daughter of a mother who only attained a 6th grade education—but who understood that education is what lifts us out of poverty."

I never forgot my roots. I drafted the language of the Parent Empowerment Act—popularly known as the parent-trigger law—in 2010. Ben Austin, who is now the executive director of the organization Parent Revolution, suggested the idea of such legislation to me. I immediately wrote the language for the bill, understanding the transformative power it held for parents of kids who are trapped in failing schools.

It allows parents whose local school has been identified by the state as chronically underperforming—failing, in my view—to petition to force change at that school, including changes in school administration and teaching staff, or bringing in a charter school operator.

At the same time my bill was moving through the California legislature, American parents were increasingly demanding greater school choice, revolting against arcane school assignment laws more reflective of an 18th-century feudal society than a 21st-century global, mobile society.

In no other part of American life do we tie parents to the land, define them by zip code, and empower government officials who are strangers to families to make fundamental, life-altering decisions on behalf of their children based on five digits of geographic identity. The zip code has become the definitive great divide, a profound separation between high-poverty, minority youths and the American dream.

Undoubtedly, if sweetheart contracts didn't enable effective teachers to bypass struggling neighborhood schools, and if bureaucrats actually used the federal laws at their disposal to transform such schools, I never would have had to write the parent-trigger law. But that was not the case. Lists of failing schools, representing hundreds of thousands of kids in California, were simply released and promptly ignored. Few people even knew about the lists, and those who did weren't outraged.

So I looked back to the foundations of our democracy and gave parents the right to take on their own government when it refused to act on behalf of their children. Thus, parent trigger was born.

I understood that power never concedes power without a fight. Parents attempting to use a law written for them have discovered that the adults in the education system who enjoy paychecks, pensions, and perks at the expense of kids will fight back to protect themselves.

But we're not in Kansas anymore. From Topeka and Brown v. Board of Education to Compton and Adelanto (two California communities where parent-trigger petitions were filed) and Los Angeles today, parents have been given the unalienable right to truly become the architects of their children's educational futures.

As of today, some 20 states have considered enacting legislation like the little law I wrote in California. Sure, the original law I wrote has flaws, but they can be remedied.

But the power of parent trigger is true to the principle for which it stands: We, the people, have the right to petition our government for change, and when it fails to act, we have the power—with our own "John Hancock"—to tell government to get the hell out of our way. Our children's futures are at stake, and we will no longer be complacent or silent.

Gloria Romero represented East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley in the California legislature for 12 years. She served as Senate Democratic caucus chair and Senate majority leader, and she chaired the Senate education committee. In 2010, she was the author of the Parent Empowerment Act as part of California's Race to the Top initiative. She retired from the state Senate in December 2010, led California Democrats for Education Reform from 2010 to 2013, and left that post to establish the Foundation for Parent Empowerment.

This Commentary is part of a special section supported by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation, at www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.

How I …I mean How Community

Power Saved LAUSD Superintendent Dr. Deasy

Ben Austin

by Ben Austin, Executive Director, Parent Revolution – from the Huffington Post | http://huff.to/1hD5PP5

11/11/2013 3:21 pm  ::  Grassroots organizations across Los Angeles organized and fought against powerful special interests and long odds. For one single moment the people of Los Angeles stood together for the simple proposition that we must elevate our kids above our politics. And the people won.

How did that happen?

While the LAUSD still has a long way to go, for the past three years it has been steadily improving in a number of key categories. Under Superintendent John Deasy's leadership, LAUSD students have been learning more, scoring higher and graduating in greater numbers. They've also been suspended a lot less.

But change is hard. Lots of politicians spend a lot of time talking about kids. But a genuine kids-first agenda -- where we make every single decision as if it would literally impact our own children -- still remains disturbingly radical when compared to the status quo.

Two weeks ago, word leaked that Dr. Deasy might be leaving. Dr. Deasy often faces powerful opponents who challenge his independent, kids-first agenda. These interest groups have been working for years to push him out. This was their moment.

During a 72-hour window leading up to the board meeting, parents looked at each other and realized that nobody was coming to their rescue. Parents recognized that they must become the change. So they organized. One mom at my daughter's neighborhood elementary school even organized parents during our annual "Halloween Haunt" festival.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and civic leaders across the political spectrum one by one stood up and stood behind this organic grassroots movement.

United Teachers of Los Angeles, the local teachers union, stood alone -- politically isolated on this seminal issue. Not even other teachers unions would support UTLA's extreme cause.

Following this outpouring of public support, Dr. Deasy emerged from last week's school board meeting with an agreement to remain as superintendent through 2016.

How did community power save the superintendent?

Saving Dr. Deasy did not happen because of the traditional power players: Mayors, philanthropists, unions or any other traditional institutional interest group. It didn't even happen because of Dr. Deasy. He was actively discouraging his supporters -- making it very clear that he felt it was time for him to go. Parents kept going despite his admonitions because this wasn't about any single person. It was about our kids.

If this movement did have a single leader, it was the team at United Way of Greater Los Angeles. They helped to organize this loose coalition of over 60 organizations, and they stood up and took and action when we had very little time or hope.

But there were dozens of other leaders. Grassroots community organizations like Alliance for a Better Community, Community Coalition and Inner City Struggle helped to lead this movement partly because of Dr. Deasy's commitment to poor communities and communities of color.

Parent leaders like Amabilia Villeda, who serves as chapter coordinator for the 24th Street Elementary Parents Union, helped turn out dozens of parents to support Dr. Deasy. Amabilia and other parents worked collaboratively with Dr. Deasy to transform their failing school using California's landmark parent trigger law. Today their children attend the first-ever school where the district is working collaboratively with a charter school to serve the same kids, while also providing free universal preschool for all neighborhood kids. Parent Union members spoke movingly about Dr. Deasy visiting them in the rain to extend his hand in partnership.

Parents waited in line for hours to get into the meeting, even though many didn't get in, including me. They passed the time by passing out "Daisies for Deasy." In one resounding collective voice, the chants from hundreds of parents and community leaders could be heard from blocks away: "Don't be Crazy -- Keep Doc Deasy!"

These are the unsung heroes whom our children may never thank, but who stepped up for them when it mattered.

Under the leadership of Board President Dr. Richard Vladovic, the LAUSD school board listened to the will of the parents and the will of the people. Now is the time for all adults on all sides of this debate to start acting like grown-ups, including Dr. Deasy and his supporters.

Moving forward, everyone must commit to live by one simple rule: if it's not okay on the playground, it's not okay in our politics either. This is not about adult interests or petty political games. It's about our kids. Anyone who deviates from that simple rule, as one mom at the board meeting scolded, we'll have to put in a time-out.

Ben Austin is the executive director of Los Angeles-based Parent Revolution, a nonprofit organization that works to empower parents striving to improve their children's education. Ben is the proud parent of two young daughters.
Community groups and organizations that turned out at the rally, aided with organizing efforts, or voiced their support to save Superintendent John Deasy's job include: Alliance for a Better Community, ACLU of So Cal, the Advancement Project, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Bend The Arc, Campaign for College Opportunity, CARECEN, CCSA, CFY LA, Children Now, CHIRLA, City Year, Community Coalition, Communities in Schools, Educators 4 Excellence, Ed Pioneers, EdVoice, Families In Schools, Goodwill of So Cal, Green Dot,, KIPP LA, LA Gay & Lesbian Center, LA Small Schools Center, LACER Afterschool Programs, LA Educational Partnership, LA Gay and Lesbian Center, LAMP Community Center, Lanai Road Education Committee, LA Urban League, LA Voice, Mind Research Institute, Music Center, New Teacher Center, Parent Partnership, Parent Revolution, Parent Institute for Quality Education, Partnership for LA Schools, SEIU 99, Students for Education Reform, StudentsFirst, Students Matter, Teach For America, Teach Plus, The California Endowment, Think Together, UCLA Center X, United Way of Greater Los Angeles, and the Youth Policy Institute.

2cents small   I know of at least two of the above listed community groups and organizations who do not/did not support the “Save  Deasy” effort and are surprised to be on the list.   One man’s grass roots is the next man’s AstroTurf.

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